Coming off a disappointing loss last week, the Purdue Boilermakers will try to punch their ticket to a bowl game this weekend when they host the Wisconsin Badgers. Kickoff is set for 3:30 EST on Saturday, November 17, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana. Fans can catch the game on the Big Ten Network.
Purdue began the week as 6-point favorites. However, that line has come down slightly with the Boilermakers now favored by 5.5 points. The over/under is set at 53 points. Be sure to check out a complete listing of the Week 12 college football odds.
The Boilermakers have had such an unusual season. They’ve beaten three ranked teams, including that monumental upset over Ohio State. But they’ve also had puzzling losses to the likes of Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, who blew out Purdue 41-10 last week. That loss to Minnesota also took them out of the running for a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game.
As it stands, the Boilermakers are 5-5 overall, so despite the impressive wins on their resume, they need one more win to reach a bowl game. It would be the first time since 2012 that Purdue went to a bowl in back-to-back seasons. Of course, the team is now dealing with the distraction of head coach Jeff Brohm being linked to the coaching vacancy at Louisville. Add it all up, and the Boilermakers have a lot to overcome if they want to play in a bowl this year.
Wisconsin, meanwhile, has already locked up a bowl spot, maintaining a streak of 16 straight bowl appearances. However, the Badgers may have a sour taste in their mouths coming down the stretch after falling well short of preseason expectations.
With three losses in their last five games, Wisconsin is just 6-4 and out of contention in the Big Ten West. Needless to say, that’s disappointing for a team that began the season with hopes of winning the Big Ten and perhaps playing in the College Football Playoff. Outside of jockeying for a better bowl game and securing second place in the West division, the Badgers don’t have much to play for in their final two games.
Of course, Wisconsin could be motivated by trying to keep their 12-game winning streak over Purdue intact. The Badgers have knocked off the Boilermakers in 12 straight meetings, including the last nine years. Purdue’s last win over Wisconsin came in 2003, so it’ll be a long time coming if the Boilermakers can hold serve at home this weekend.
Before the season, I would have thought it was crazy for Purdue to be favored over Wisconsin, especially by more than a field goal. To be honest, I still think it’s a little crazy. Coming off a disastrous loss to Minnesota last week, I don’t trust the Boilermakers to win and cover against what is still a solid Wisconsin team. Even if Purdue can sneak out a win, I think the Badgers will beat the spread.
Purdue’s 41-10 loss to Minnesota last week may have been a more shocking result than their win over Ohio State. They couldn’t get anything going offensively against a defense that hasn’t stopped anyone all year. They were also lit up by an offense with serious limitations. It was beyond puzzling and makes me question everything I thought I knew about Purdue. Right now, they look more like the team that started the season 0-3 than the team that beat Ohio State. There’s no way that the Purdue team from early September is beating Wisconsin.
The most distressing part of Purdue’s loss was how their defense was shredded on the ground. In November, Big Ten games are often won or lost by each team’s ability to run the ball and stop the run. Minnesota isn’t a big threat through the air, so the Boilermakers should have been able to focus on stopping the run. Instead, they gave up 265 yards and 6.5 yards per carry on the ground.
A similar performance this week would be disastrous against Wisconsin. Even with quarterback Alex Hornibrook questionable after missing two of the last three games, the Badgers still have Jonathan Taylor to carry the offense. Taylor is averaging over 150 yards per game by himself at a clip of 6.8 yards per carry. The Boilermakers had been good against the run prior to last week, but if they play as they did against Minnesota, Taylor will run circles around them.
I also think the Wisconsin defense deserves some credit. They’ve tightened up against the run late in the season, even in the games they’ve lost. The Badgers are also conceding just 24 points per game in conference play. If they can hold Purdue to a similar total, it’ll be tough for the Boilermakers to cover 5.5 points. The Boilermakers have also been a little Jekyll and Hyde offensively since the Ohio State win. Quarterback David Blough has thrown five interceptions in his last three games, which is a concern.
Ultimately, I expect this to be a classic Big Ten defensive slugfest. Both teams will struggle to throw the ball, keeping points at a premium. In that kind of game, 5.5 points is a lot to cover, especially for a team that played as terribly as Purdue did last week. The Badgers may be having a down year, but they’re still good enough to win this game. I like my chances with the underdog in this matchup.